The great printer rip off: Ink costs more than vintage champers – and devious new tricks mean you constantly have to buy refills

The people who make printer cartridges must see us coming and laugh all the way to the bank.

As many have discovered to their horror, refills are so exorbitantly expensive that printer ink costs far more drop for drop than fine Champagne, vintage port or Chanel No 5 — a typical family running a busy printer can easily spend £200 a year on ink alone. But that, dear reader, is just the start of it.

If you think that you are getting through ink cartridges more quickly than ever, you are probably right. Over the past decade manufacturers have actually reduced the amount of ink inside them.

 
A typical family running a busy printer can easily spend £200 a year on ink alone because cartridges are so dear

A typical family running a busy printer can easily spend £200 a year on ink alone because cartridges are so dear

At the same time they are making it as hard as possible for shoppers to buy cheaper second hand, recycled and refilled cartridges.

In a world of scams, dodgy deals and consumer cons, surely the great computer ink rip-off is one of the most galling.

We never used to have this much trouble with typewriters. The ribbon in my first old-fashioned manual lasted years.

But the days when companies sold long-lasting products that rarely needed replacing or servicing are gone.

The 21st century business model is to initially sell consumers stuff on the cheap — and then force us to come back again and again for outrageously pricy accessories.

This week Tesco are advertising an HP all-in-one inkjet printer, copier and scanner for less than £30.

It’s a fantastic bargain. But what the purchaser may not appreciate is that the two ink cartridges that work with the printer cost at least £20. Within a few months the owner will have spent twice the cost of the printer on ink.

The cost of ink is truly astronomical. A typical HP cartridge costing £13 contains a measly 4ml of ink — the equivalent of more than £3,000 a litre. In contrast, you can buy a bottle of very decent 1995 Dom Perignon champagne for £150.

The printer ink industry insist their prices are reasonable. A cartridge isn’t just a plastic box with ink, they say, it’s a sophisticated device that sprays the ink on to paper and cleans itself.

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